Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Monday morning in a Q-and-A with the team's official website that quarterback Shane Morris was "medically cleared" to return to the game during Saturday's loss to Minnesota.
According to Hoke, Morris was eventually pulled from the game due to his leg injury, with no mention of a possible head injury. He said the team "would never" allow an injured player to play in a game.
"And when Shane heard his name, the medical staff said, 'Yeah, he can go.' And he went out on the field. We'd never put a kid out there who wasn't capable. He was medically cleared to go in on that play."
Hoke has been criticized for allowing Morris to stay in the game after the quarterback sustained what appeared to be a possible head injury.
In the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, Morris, already limping due to a leg injury, was hit hard by Golden Gophers defensive end Theiren Cockran, with Cockran's helmet appearing to make contact with Morris's. The tackle drew a penalty for roughing the passer.
When Morris stood up, he appeared wobbly and had to lean on offensive lineman Ben Braden to stay standing. Two other teammates signaled to the sideline, but Morris waved off medical attention, stayed in the game and made a pass attempt on Michigan's next play before he was then pulled for redshirt senior Devin Gardner.
Later, when Gardner lost his helmet and had to come out for a play, Michigan sent Morris back in instead of calling a timeout or using backup Russell Bellomy.
Immediately after the game, Hoke said "I don't know" if Morris was possibly concussed after the Cockran hit, that it was his decision for the quarterback to remain on the field and that he didn't see Morris being shaky on his feet.
In a statement Sunday night, Hoke said Morris was initially removed from the game due to a leg injury and that he's "confident proper medical decisions were made." He also said coaches "have no influence or authority" to decide if an injured player returns to the field.
This is not the first time Hoke has drawn criticism for his handling of a player's health. When he was the head coach at Ball State in 2004, Hoke and current Michigan strength coach Aaron Wellman were punished after a player got frostbite during a disciplinary workout.
The player, Chris Jackson, was forced to carry 25-pound sandbags on the stadium's steps in subzero temperatures. The temperature during the 6 a.m. workout was reportedly seven degrees below zero with a wind chill of negative 12. After the 40-minute workout, Jackson had frostbite on several fingers. He recovered and resumed training after receiving medical attention.
Michigan will play Rutgers on the road this Saturday night.
- Ben Estes